The ingredient brand Lavalan, which originates from the Bavarian town of Dinkelsbühl, uses solely European wool for insulating material that is used in outdoor clothing collections, and in doing so supports regional trade.
Lavalan – the name of your ingredient brand sounds just as gentle and soft as the natural raw material that you use to make it. What does the name mean?
Peter Krommer: That’s true, and people often say that. The name comes from Latin and is made up of the words lavare (to wash) and lana (wool). So it means washable wool. The fact that you can wash our wool fleece is one of our key USPs.
The development of Lavalan wool wadding as we know it today started around 15 years ago. If you compare the first products with those that you manufacture today, what has changed?
Peter Kommer: In the beginning, the weights of the wool wadding we produced were too high, meaning that the end product was simply too heavy. The first functional jackets made with our wadding were rather bulky and too heavy for sporting activities.
Customers in the outdoor sector were increasingly starting to look for something more lightweight. The demand was growing for lightweight products that were also highly functional and robust. Over the course of the years, we gradually developed the lightweight lavalan® wool fleece that we manufacture today in Dinkelsbühl.
What exactly does your Lavalan product contain? 100% wool?
Peter Krommer: Our original lavalan® wadding consists of around 80% wool which we blend with around 20% PLA fibres, made from corn. Both the wool fibres and the corn fibres arrive on our premises as bales. We open and card the fibres in our family business and then use them to make the product that will be sent out to the manufacturers who work for our partners in the outdoor sector.
Where do you get the wool for your Lavalan products from?
Peter Krommer: We work with shepherds and partner companies in Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Sweden and Norway. The diversity of different breeds of sheep is huge and the particular qualities of the wool vary from region to region. In Norway the climate is very different to that of southern Germany. This affects the character of the wool.
Our task is to sort the wool according to its fineness, length, degree of crimp and homogeneity, in order that we can create a high-quality and even product.
Since 2021, you have also been offering lavalan® pure. What is so special about this new kind of fleece?
Peter Krommer: lavalan® pure is made of 100% European wool and is therefore 100% biodegradable. The structure of this wool wadding is especially fine. In comparison to our original lavalan®, lavalan® pure is less robust and tear-resistant, and thus needs a more frequent quilting. We recommend to our partners in the outdoor sector that they make greater use of this version in their most eco-friendly collections.
Have you noticed an increase in the demand for 100% biodegradable materials?
Peter Krommer: Yes. There is a trend in the functional clothing industry towards the use of monomaterials. When materials – like our lavalan® pure – are made from just one natural raw material, it’s easier at the end of the product life cycle to bring this component back into circulation and make new things from it.
Keeping sheep is a highly respected job in Europe. Do the sheep have a good life?
Peter Krommer: (laughs). The sheep really do get well looked after, especially in comparison to other farm animals. They’re allowed to spend most of the year outside in the fresh air. Sheep farming in Europe is very fragmented and is very much based on the natural behaviour of the animals themselves. For example, in Switzerland the average size of a herd is around 70 animals. Sheep farming makes a significant contribution to maintaining biodiversity, preserving the countryside and protecting nature. When I visit sheep farms, whether they are in Norway, Switzerland or southern Germany, I always feel reassured that we are doing the right thing.
Wool has outstanding technical properties. Do these properties have an effect in Lavalan’s wadding?
Peter Krommer: The functional advantages of wool really come into their own when it is used for insulation. Wool is made up of 80% hollow spaces and can therefore store our body heat very well. Furthermore, wool can absorb up to 36% of its dry weight in moisture and constantly releases this moisture. This makes wool breathable to an unparalleled extent and ensures a consistent, dry and comfortable feel. Wool can also neutralise bad smells, so garments can be worn for a long time without needing to be washed.
As well as these unrivalled functional qualities, wool also meets a good number of environmental criteria. Wool is naturally renewable and becomes available every year in Europe as a by-product of the meat industry. Wool is also completely biodegradable, but can also be recycled very easily.
Which products can we find Lavalan wool wadding in currently?
Peter Krommer: Our lavalan wool wadding comes in lots of different weights and qualities, and therefore has a diverse range of uses, e.g. in ski and outdoor clothing, home furnishings, prams and pushchairs, sleeping bags, helmets and much more besides.
Which outdoor brands are you working with currently?
Peter Krommer: We started with the Swiss brand Mover, who were the first outdoor company to ask us for a lightweight wool wadding for their functional jackets, and this was followed by contracts with Ortovox, Bergans and Napapijri. With the increasing demand for natural raw materials, our portfolio has grown steadily. Today we supply a wide range of companies in the outdoor sector, including Alpina Sports, Fjällräven, Grüezi Bag, Helly Hansen, Maier Sports, Sasta, Snowlife, Vaude und Ziener.
Are you able to trace back the wool you use to the individual sheep?
Peter Krommer: Not to the individual sheep. But we do know very precisely which sheep farms we are working with and we can vouch for the quality of their products and the welfare of the animals.
In Germany, we work directly with sheep farmers in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg. Currently that’s around 10 businesses here in Southern Germany. In Switzerland and Austria, we source the wool through wool collection centres. When we announce that we are ready to collect, an average of 30 to 70 shepherds come to offer us their wool. In Sweden, we work with a company that has set itself the goal of re-establishing the value of Swedish wool. This company also has a laundry on Gotland where we have the Swedish wool washed after sorting.
You work with partner companies in five different countries, who collect the new wool for you. What happens to the wool when you have purchased it from the sheep farmers?
Peter Krommer: Once we have sorted the wool in terms of fineness, length, degree of crimp and homogeneity, the next step is to wash it. We have various different partner companies who take on the washing process. As I mentioned, the Swedish wool is washed straight away on the island of Gotland. The wool from the Norwegian sheep is washed in England. For the material sourced in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, we are currently using a company in Belgium.
Why do you think that European pure new wool is becoming increasingly popular?
Peter Krommer: As well as the growing demand for natural raw materials, there is also increasing interest in sourcing things as locally as possible. Companies nowadays are increasingly keen to cultivate regional trading relationships. End users too are thinking more and more in this direction and are prepared to accept the additional costs. We are responding to this trend by offering the outdoor brands who use our lavalan® products wool fleece that has been sourced from farms that are as close to their premises as possible. For Vaude, for example, we source organic pure new wool from Lake Constance. The wool for the wadding used in Maier Sports’ trousers comes from the Swabian Alb. We collect the wool for Fjällräven’s warm outdoor parkas in Sweden.
Our most recent development, lavalan® pure, follows this trend to the farthest possible extent. 100% pure new wool that is processed by means of a mechanical needling technique – you can’t get more organic or energy-efficient than that!
Lavalan Wool Insulation: Advantages at a Glance
1 – Traceable European virgin wool with short transportation routes
2 – Produced in Germany
3 – Consists solely of natural, renewable and biodegradable raw materials
4 – Wool provides pleasant warmth, and is temperature-regulating, breathable and odor-neutralizing
5 – Wool is warming even when damp, and can absorb and release up to 36% of its own weight in moisture
6 – lavalan is machine-washable
For further information, visit www.lavalan.com